Author Michael A. Martin returns to Star Trek: Titan with Seize The Fire. The Gorn have joined the Typhon Pact, but they have a problem. Their warrior caste hatchery world has gone kablooey, and it’s nigh-impossible to find another suitable location. Lucky for them, they have a big ol’ terraforming device lying about. But Riker isn’t so keen on the idea of them using it…
The Gorn have gotten their dirty
hands claws manus on a terraforming device they call an ’ecosculptor’, and it can turn a desolate rock into a lush green paradise. They need it to create a suitable home for their younglings, but the only planet they’ve found suitable for ecosculpting is already populated by a pre-warp race. Terraforming a planet has the unfortunate side-effect of wiping out all of the indigenous life: plant, mineral, vegetable or animal.
Meanwhile, a group of washed-up Gorn warriors rebel and decide they’re going to destroy the ecosculptor and create a new breeding program for an even better warrior caste.
Enter William T. Riker, captain of the U.S.S. Titan. He’s not in the business of letting innocent planets get turned into a Gorn Garden of Eden. But the people of the Gorn’s target planet — the Hranrarii — are pre-warp, so he can’t pop down and tell them what’s going on. Indeed, he is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Author Michael A. Martin is also the co-author of the first two Titan books and the co-creator of the entire series. So I was cautiously optimistic this could be a solid read. But alas, this book is far from solid.
Firstly, it’s too long. Not because there are plenty of twists and turns, but because the book is annoyingly repetitive. Every chapter rehashes the current crisis, and the reader is reminded of just what’s at stake (the Hranrarii) and what the weapon can do (it can create life, but it’s a terrible weapon too! Oh, what to do, what to do…) Over and over again, we’re constantly reminded of the predicament they’re in.
The second major issue is that the muddy soup of Gorn characters are nearly impossible to tell apart, mainly because their names are so similar. As far as Gorn characters go, we have Gog’resssh, Rreszsesrr, Sazssgrerrn, Z’shezhira, Zegrroz’rh, S’syrixx, S’alath… okay, that last one is actually the name of a Gorn ship. Anyway, it’s nearly impossible to remember who is who, since their names may as well be Sue, Susan, Sue-Anne, Suzy and Suzane.
(Or, if we want the names to be a little more alien: S’ue, Su’san, Sue’nne, Suz’y and Su’z’a’ne… (apostrophes make everything sound alien)).
Furthermore, the Gorn storylines are a dull distraction from the Titan based chapters. The pace grinds to a halt as, once more, S’syrixx or Z’shezhira or whoever agonise over the choices they face. The Gorn characters are one-dimensional, and it’s hard to sympathise with them. The reader is constantly reminded that the reptiloid Gorn find mammals (such as humans) repulsive. I suppose it’s meant to invert the idea that humans are repulsed by reptiles such as snakes — but honestly, I quite like snakes, lizards and turtles, and I couldn’t quite buy the idea that the Gorn hate mammals to such a degree and so unilaterally.
Speaking of characters, many of the characters in Seize The Fire continually do dumb-ass things. For instance, Riker keeps on beaming over to an enemy ship, and Z’shezhira keeps planning to sabotage the evil plans of Gog’resssh, only to either lose her nerve or stuff it up.
Weirdly, by the end of the book, suddenly we find out the ’ecosculptor’ is a sentient AI being of some kind and not just a bunch of circuits and alloys. I have no idea why this was introduced so late in the story. It was interesting enough but unnecessary. Tuvok mind-melds with it, so yeah, now Vulcans can mind-meld with AI computers. Go figure.
... the Gorn storylines are a dull distraction from the Titan based chapters
It’s not all bad, though. Michael A. Martin was obviously tasked with expanding the Gorn, who appeared in just one episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. He does a decent job, as we learn that the Gorn are split into castes, and their children are born and raised in carefully produced hatcheries.
James Swallow’s excellent Titan novel Synthesis did a much better job with Titan’s diverse cast of characters. Swallow showed us a lot more interaction between sets of characters, giving us a chance to get to know them a little better. But with Seize The Fire, most of the characters are reduced to a few quippy one-liners, followed by them lamenting the tricky situation they find themselves in.
The book’s opening chapter showed a lot of promise, and the overall story is not a bad one. The book just severely needed to be cut down and re-edited. At 120 000 words, it’s a longish book (by tie-in standards). It could have been 20k words shorter and still be a satisfying length. But somehow, the book felt both rushed and overly long.
Two books in, and the Typhon Pact series is off to a mediocre start. I probably enjoyed Seize The Fire about as much as the first Typhon Pact entry, Zero Sum Game — although they are very different books with very different problems.
Seize The Fire was a mixed bag. I’m hoping the third entry, Rough Beasts of Empire by David R. George III will be better.